If you think you don't have time to get fit, think again. A Canadian study has found that just a single minute of high intensity exercise can give the same health benefits as longer and more traditional moderate-intensity workouts.
Researchers from McMaster University looked at how the health benefits of sprint interval training (SIT) compared to those of moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT), the type of exercise currently recommended in public health guidelines.
The team recruited 27 sedentary men to look at key indicators of health including cardiorespiratory fitness and insulin sensitivity, with low insulin sensitivity associated with Type 2, and occassionally Type 1 diabetes.
Nine of the men took part in three weekly sessions of SIT training for a 12-week period, while ten took part in MICT training. The rest of the men were placed in a control group that didn't train at all.
Those taking part in the SIT training completed a 10-minute workout in total, with a 2-minute warm-up, followed by three 20-second sprints on the bike with a 2-minute recovery period of slower continuous cycling in between, and finishing with a 3-minute cool down.
Those taking part in MICT training completed 45 minutes of continuous cycling as well as the same 2-minute warm-up and 3-minute cool down.
At the end of the 12 weeks, the results showed that even though those in the MICT group had performed five-times as much exercise, and also committed to five-fold the amount of time, cardio health increased in both the SIT and MICT groups by the same amount. Insulin sensitivity also increased by similar amounts.
"Most people cite 'lack of time' as the main reason for not being active," says Martin Gibala, the lead author on the study. "Our study shows that an interval-based approach can be more efficient -- you can get health and fitness benefits comparable to the traditional approach, in less time. Brief bursts of intense exercise are remarkably effective."
And for those still not convinced, Gibala adds that these basic principles apply to many forms of exercise.
"Climbing a few flights of stairs on your lunch hour can provide a quick and effective workout," he says. "The health benefits are significant."
The findings are published online in the journal PLOS ONE.